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“Lose” Slumps By “Losing Control”

The Terrible Slump

“I’ve been in a terrible slump,” laments the star baseball player.  “No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to  shake it.  I’ve been taking extra batting practice for the past week, and that’s only made things worse.  But I am convinced that if I try even harder,  I can come out of it.  As they say, ‘If you don’t succeed at first, try, try again,’” he bravely commits.

The player may be brave, but is he wise?

Is the Problem the Slump or Excessive Control?

Like many athletes and performers, the star player is control prone.  By that I mean, he is over thinking , over trying,  over obsessing—and under trusting and accepting.   As a result, he is resisting life’s “natural currents,” rather than letting them run their natural course.

As I wrote in my first blog post, life is constantly moving, shifting, ebbing and flowing.   There are and will always be highs and lows.  Yins and Yangs.  Slumps happen.  It is important to accept that.   Sometimes we lose our “groove” for no apparent reason, and fear sets in, causing a loss of confidence.   But trying extra hard doesn’t bring it back.  Once you start pressing and thinking too much about the problem, you become your own worst enemy.

It is usually better to let slumps resolve themselves naturally—and they usually will if you have patience and trust that everything will work out in due time.   That doesn’t mean that you should not check (and correct if necessary) your basic fundamentals—in the star player’s case,  swing form and technique—but after that, just let it go if you can.

Psychologists Agree:  Control Actions Make Slumps Even Worse

In a recent article by Sue Shellenbarger in the Wall Street Journal, “Slumping at Work? What Would Jack Do” (, October 13),  psychologists confirm that working and trying too hard makes matters even worse, both in sports and at work.    Sport psychologist Gregg Steinberg told an account executive who was not producing to do what he advises athletes to do: “Stop working and allow yourself to relax.”  Following his advice, the executive’s sales doubled.   Dr Steinberg stated that the principles that lead to slumps are the same at work and in sports: loss of confidence, over-thinking every move, dwelling on past failures and working too much.

The article goes on to tell how star Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smotz, mired in a 2-11 record at the All Star Break,  made matters worse by trying to break out of his slump with hard work and overanalyzing every bad pitch he made.   When he stopped obsessing and instead focused on the positive things he did well; he was 12-2 for the remainder of the season.

Similarly, amateur golfer Greg DeRosa relates how during a slump,  he practiced harder and took lessons, only to lose the rhythm of his swing.   However, after working with sports and performance psychotherapist Tom Ferraro, he stopped taking lessons and started trusting his instincts.  Soon after, he took three strokes off his previous lowest average five years prior.

Lose Control and Regain the Flow

I like to say, “You can’t flow if you control.”  So drop the control and regain the flow!  That’s true, whether in sports, performance, work, the arts, relationships or life in general.   In my forthcoming book Losing Control, Finding Serenity , I offer tools and methods for learning how to effectively let go of control in these life arenas.

For now, here are two tips for losing slumps in addition to those I mention above:

*Envision yourself performing in a confident, smooth manner.  Do this well before, up to, and at the start of the game or performance.

*Face your performance fears and anxiety.   Don’t shy away from them.   Address and process them the best way you can.  In most instances, your fears and anxieties are what cause you to control.  (This key control catalyst is addressed at length in my book.)

By practicing these tips, I am confident you will see a marked improvement in performance.   They sure have helped my tennis game!

In the meantime, remember to,

Let It Go–and Accept “What Is!”

Danny Miller

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